Everything’s coming up rainbows: a volunteer profile

Traci MurphyJan. 13, 2022
Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor Diane Stecklein

It’s National Mentoring Month, and Lead to Read KC could not do what we do without our dedicated Reading Mentors, like Diane Stecklein.

 After her retirement, Stecklein felt called to give back to her community. A TV news story about Lead to Read KC led her to the perfect opportunity.

“The Lead to Read Program was featured on Channel 9 KMBC news. I was immediately intrigued,” Stecklein said. 

Remembering the impact her grandmother had as a teacher and knowing the effects the pandemic continues to have on children, she wanted to help.

Stecklein joined Lead to Read KC as a Reading Mentor on the Brookside Charter School team in fall 2021. She found the connection she was looking for during her first digital reading and mentoring session, when she asked her student what her favorite color was. Her student, wearing a pink mask with a rainbow on it, replied, “A rainbow!”

 “By chance, I was wearing a colorful shirt with similar colors,” Stecklein said. “I showed her my shirt through the laptop camera and told her, ‘I think we were meant to meet each other and I hope we become good friends.’”

 Her student was a little shy at first, but Diane’s wish came true as the weeks went by.

 “We’ve become good friends and share experiences, which is very meaningful,” she said. “I’ve learned she has three cats, loves pizza and sweet potatoes, and hates clowns.”

 The pair even share virtual “hugs” at the end of their reading sessions.

“Our reading time is important, but I’m so glad we are able to connect on a personal level,” Stecklein said. “I look forward to seeing the excitement through her smile and laughter.”*

According to MENTOR, The National Mentoring Partnership, mentoring provides meaningful connections for the people involved and influences their lives at home, at work and in their communities. And, for those who are being mentored, it is linked to improved academic, social and economic prospects.

You also can make that connection and help a student by becoming a Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor. More than 100 students are waiting to be paired. Learn more and apply today. Already a Reading Mentor? Please invite a friend or colleague to join you.

Happy National Mentoring Month! 

*UPDATE: Diane was able to see the excitement in person! Watch our KMBC 9 News story to see Diane and Alijah’s heart-warming in-person meeting at Brookside Charter School.

Diane Stecklein meets her student